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Asia, Commonwealth of Independent States, Kazakhstan, Tien Shan, Peak Nazarbaev, Mass Ascent

Peak Nazarbaev, Mass Ascent. On July 6, our party of about 300 made the first ascent of Peak Nazarbaev (4376m) in the Zailiysky Alatau range above the city of Almaty. Peak Nazarbaev had not been climbed because it had not existed prior to July 6, when it was renamed after Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbaev on the occasion of his birthday. The previous name had been Peak Komsomola (Peak of the Communist Youth League).

The Kazakhstani Army Sports Club provided excellent support for the climb. The chairlift began before dawn to carry everyone up to 3100 meters. It was just as well that only about 300 of the expected 1,500 climbers appeared, because it took the single-chair chairlift a while to get everyone up. Five minutes up the trail from the top of the chairlift, doctors had set up a M.A.S.H.-like medical tent and several tables to check each participant’s pulse and blood pressure. After getting medical clearance, everyone set off up the glacier.

For the first few miles, a hundred helmeted soldiers from the Kazakhstani Army led the way. The route was hard to miss because men in bright orange coveralls were posted every 200 feet to offer assistance. For the last 150 meters below the summit, members of the recently returned Kazakhstani Everest expedition had fixed two sets of ropes to allow for travel in each direction. Except for a bottleneck at the bottom of the ropes, the system worked well and nearly everyone reached the top. Given the right conditions, both meteorological and political, many other first ascent possibilities (perhaps Peaks Lenin and Communism) in the former Soviet Union await.

Steve Bain